The Descriptor System, version 93/1
Eurocode records information about food at the level of consumer knowledge of the food. Therefore, for analyses and comparisons of food consumption Eurocode 2 alone may be inadequate. For nutrient analysis or assessment of possible risks of food processing, additional descriptions of foods as consumed may be desirable. Descriptors are also useful for comparative analyses of food use for epidemiological, toxicological or other purposes. They provide variables which can be used to sort data sets. Details about heat treatment and processing methods of foood as consumed may be recorded in a consistent fashion throughout Europe with the descriptor system, which is a supplement to Eurocode.
What is the Descriptor System?
The descriptor system is designed specifically for more detailed coding of foods as consumed and reported in dietary intake studies. Within the system, descriptor subsets should be selected that are selected that are specific to the study goals. For example, a study designed to evaluate vitamin C intake should include questions on consumption of vitaminized soft drinks. The descriptors, because they are designed for dietary surveys, do not attempt to satisfy the degree of technical detail used in food technology.
- The Eurocode descriptor system is a semi-hierarchical system with 80 descriptors for describing the state of foods at the time of consumption in more detail than provided by Eurocode 2. It is meant to be added to the Eurocode 2 code by those who wish to use it. It is not designed to replace the food code. The descriptors are divided into main groups denoted by a letter. These are:
- T Thermal treatment at consumption
- N Non-thermal treatment
- P Preservation method / packing medium
- A Component added
- R Component removed
- T1 Baked
- Cooked by dry heat in an oven, no fat or oil added. Use for e.g. bread, potatoes, bakery goods. Do not use for foods covered with fat / oil (meat, nuts), use roasted.
- T2 Barbecued
- Cooked on grill bars over burning charcoal or wood.
Example: meat, chicken, fish, potatoes, tomatoes.
This descriptor can be used to specify the term 'griddled'.
- T3 Blanched
- Partially precooked prior to consumption, freezing, canning or drying by dipping into hot water for a short time.
Example: fruit, vegetables.
- T4 Boiled
- Cooked in boiling water at 100°.
Example: Carrots, peas, potatoes, meat, rice, pasta.
- T5 Dried
- Water removed in food, by natural or artificial means, usually by rapid evaporation
Example: vegetables, fruits, pulses, fish , milk.
Also use for 'instant' foods (coffee, soup, sauces)
Do not use for concentration (use component removed, water)
- T6 Fried
- Cooked in heated oil or fat. The fat or oil becomes an ingredient of the finished product.
- Example: fish, meat, poultry. This descriptor can be used as generic term when frying method is insufficiently described.
- T7 Deep fried
- Cooked by immersion in heated fat or oil. May be preceded by coating the food in batter, breadcrumbs or flour.
Example: fish, chipped potatoes, dough-products, restructured meat (snacks).
- T8 Shallow fried
- Cooked in a shallow layer of heated oil or fat.
Example: eggs, bacon, chestnuts, bread.
- T9 Stir fried
- Cooked by frying food quickly over high heat, stirring constantly. Only enough cooking oil is used to cover the bottom of the pan.
Example: vegetables, beef with egg noodles.
- T10 Griddled
- Cooked on a heated flat metal surface. A little fat or oil may be used to grease the metal surface.
Example: griddled pancakes.
- T11 Grilled (broiled)
- Cooked rapidly without moisture, on grill bars under or over intense direct heat.
Example: poultry, beefsteak, cheese on toast, fruiting vegetables.
- T12 Microwaved
- Cooked in a microwave oven.
- T13 Parboiled
- Steaming of cereal grains to soften the husk. Nutrients are transferred from the bran to the endosperm.
Example: rice, wheat.
- T14 Poached
- Cooked by heating for a short time in a shallow layer of liquid held at just below the boiling point. Usually, care is taken to retain the shape of the food.
Example: eggs, fish, fruit, pudding.
- T15 Roasted
- Cooked by dry heat with the aid of fat or oil in an oven or over a fire.
Example: roast beef, chicken on a spit, potatoes or nuts.
- T16 Scalded
- Milk or cream heated to just below their boiling points for at least 30 minutes, then cooled to around 4°.
- T17 Steamed
- Cooked suspended above boiling water.
Example: vegetables, meat, potatoes.
- T18 Pressure steamed
- Cooked in a pressure cooker.
- T19 Toasted
- Cooked with direct dry heat at a high temperature until surface of the food is browned.
Example: bread, sandwiches, muesli.
- T20 Uncooked (raw)
- Not subjected to a heat treatment for a time sufficient to change flavour and textural characteristics. Used to identify foods that can be consumed in more than one statea and to capture information on food (such as weight) prior to cookingb.
Examplea: cauliflower eaten raw.
Exampleb: fish with bones before cooking.
- T21 Stewed
- Cooked by boiling or simmering in water (and other added liquids) contained in an enclosed vessel. Foods are stewed over a low heat for a long period of time.
Example: apples, meat.
- T22 Canned
- Generic term when the food is canned (and consequently treated with heat for preservation). The medium in which food is canned is listed under packing medium / preservation method (P).
- N1 Coated, batter
- Covered by an outer layer of batter (flour, milk and egg mixture), usually prior to frying.
- N2 Coated, flour
- Covered by an outer layer of flour which may be bound to the food with fat, milk or egg, usually prior to frying.
- N3 Grated
- Rubbed over a metal or plastic tool so that the food is shredded into very small pieces.
Example: cheese, lemon peel, nutmeg.
- N4 Mashed
- One or more foods beaten or crushed to a soft pulpy uniform mass.
Example: potato, banana.
- N5 Minced
- Cut into very small pieces.
Use for meat only.
- N6 Pureed
- Food blended (manually, electrically) so that it forms a thick, smooth sauce.
Example: tomato puree, chestnut puree, meat, vegetables, fruit.
- N7 High extraction rate
- A high yield of flour obtained in the milling process.
Use for wholemeal products.
- P1 Packed
- Generic term for packed food. The medium in which the food is packed may be consumed together with the food itself.
Example: instant soup in package, vegetables or fruits in glass, mayonnaise in tubes, ready-made meals in aluminium or plastic containers.
Do not use for temporary packing materials, such as paper or plastic bags for bread. If the packing medium such as oil or fat is known, use the more specific terms P2 - P7.
- P2 Packed in oil or fat
- Packing medium oil or fat.
Example: vegetables, fruits.
- P3 Packed in water
- Packing medium water, salted or unsalted.
Example: vegetables, fruits.
- P4 Packed in juice
- Packing medium is the natural fluid or environment of the food.
Example: vegetables, fruits, seafood.
- P5 Packed in syrup
- Packing medium (concentrated) sweetened water or (concentrated) sweetened fruit juice.
Example: fruits in heavy / light syrup.
- P6 Packed in sauce
- Packing medium sauces of different bases.
Example: beans in tomato sauce, pasta in cheese sauce.
- P7 Packed in aspic / gelatine
- Packing medium aspic / gelatine.
Example: corned beef, eel, ox-tongue.
- P8 Chemically preserved
- Preserved by the use of chemicals to destroy, suppress or inhibit undesirable microbial and enzyme activity.
Example: nitrite in bacon, ham and cheese, sorbic acid in wine, sulphur dioxide in fruits, vegetables, sausages, beverages.
- P9 Cured / aged
- Stored under controlled conditions to achieve desired properties.
Example: wine, meat, cheese.
- P10 Fermented
- Complex organic substances transformed into simple molecules by the action of micro-organisms or enzymes under controlled conditions.
Example: cultured milk products, sauerkraut, sausages, beer, wine, soya-sauce, tea.
- P11 Filtered
- Preserved by filtering out yeasts and moulds.
- P12 Irradiation
- Preserved by radiation from various sources (gamma ray, electron beam ray ultrasound, ultraviolet) to destroy or suppress undesirable micro-organisms or enzyme activity.
- P13 Salted
- Used for foods preserved as salt concentrates in order to suppress undesirable micro-organisms or enzyme activity.
Example: vegetables, fish in brine.
Do not use for foods salted merely to enhance flavour.
- P14 Smoked
- Preserved by exposure to smoke from smouldering hard woods (oak, elm) or artificial smoke-aromas. It usually follows salting.
Example: cheese, ham, salmon.
- P15 Pasteurized
- Treated by heat to destroy most but not all pathogenic and food spoilage orgamisms. Time and temperature depend on the specific method used.
Example: milk, cream, white wine, fruit (juice), fish.
- P16 Sterilized
- Rendered sterile by holding at high temperature before or after packing in a sealed container.
Example: milk, cream, meat, soups, fish, coffee creamer.
- P17 UHT-treated
- Rendered sterile by exposure to ultra high temperatures for a short time, then aseptically packed in a sealed container.
- P18 Marinaded
- Steeped in a mixture of oil, vinegar, spices etc. before cooking it, so that it can develop a special flavour or become softer.
Example: meat, fish.
- P19 Frozen
- Preserved by freezing a food product and keeping it at a temperature below the freezing point.
Example: vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, bakery products, bread, prepared meals.
- P20 Pickled
- Immersed in a solution of salt and vinegar for preservation.
Example: fish, fruit, eggs.
- A1 Sugar / honey
- Sugar (syrups) or honey added during preparation to enhance the flavour of the food.
Example: sucrose, fructose, glucose / maple syrups, brown sugar.
- A2 Artificial sweetener / light products
- Artificial sweetening substances added during processing or preparation to enhance the flavour of the food.
Example: saccharine, cyclamates, sorbitol, aspartame in beverages, fruit juices, bakery goods, puddings. This descriptor is used for 'light' products.
- A3 Water (=dilution)
- Water added to a food beyond its natural water level to thin or weaken it.
Example: milk, soup, beverages.
Do not use for concentrated or dried foods (instant soups, sauces, coffee): Eurocode lists food as consumed.
- A4 Vitamins
- Vitamins added to enhance the nutritional status of foods.
Example: sweets fortified with vitamin C.
Use text for further specification.
- A5 Minerals
- Minerals added to enhance the nutritional status of foods.
Example: calcium added to milk, iron added to bread, iodine added to salt.
- A6 Flavouring, chocolate
- Used when an ingredient is added for the purpose of imparting artificial chocolate flavour or taste.
Example: chocolate milk, chocolate ice-cream.
Do not use for real chocolate added.
- A7 Flavouring, fruit
- Used when an ingredient is added for the purpose of imparting artificial fruit flavour or taste.
Example: fruit yoghurt, puddings.
Do not use for real fruit added.
- A8 Grains / nuts / seeds
- Used when grain, grain products, nuts or seeds are added in small amounts to a food.
Example: nuts or seeds added to bread, bakery products.
Do not use for breakfast cereals.
- A9 Fruit
- Used when fruit (mixtures) are added in small amounts to a food.
Example: yoghurts, dairy products, beverages.
- A10 Fibre
- Used when fibre is added as a flavouring agent to a food.
Example: bran added to bread.
- A11 Salt
- Used when salt is added as a flavouring agent, not for preservation,
Example: eggs, water (for boiling), soup, meat.
- A12 Alcohol
- Used when alcohol is added as a flavouring agent.
Example: brandied cherries or peaches, portwine added to cheese.
Do not use for larger amount, such as Irish coffee. List the specific ingredients.
- R1 Sugar
- Used when sugar is substituted by an unknown sweetener.
- R2 Caffeine
- Used for coffee and cola drinks.
- R3 Water
- Used for a liquid or solid product from which a significant amount of water has been removed (concentration), or for products which have had less water added during preparations (e.g. instant soups).
Example: soups, fruit juices (= syrups).
Do not use for dried, dehydrated products including powders such as instant soups, sauces, potatoes or coffee and condensed or evaporated milk.
- R4 Skin / peel
- Use for food from which the outer edible layer has been removed.
Example: poultry, fruits, vegetables.
- R5 Crust
- Use for e.g. cheeses and grain products.
- R6 Non-edible part
- Use for foods from which the non-edible part has been removed.
Example: bone (meat, fish), shell (eggs, nuts, crustaceans), nonedible plant parts (artichoke).
- R7 Visible fat
- Use for meat, milk, soups, sauces etc.
Posted: 12 March 1999